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The Paradise Of The Holy Fathers Volumes 1 and 2 by Saint Athanasius Of Alexandria

IN my opinion, the things which I am now about to write are able to assist [us] greatly if we indeed follow after them, and they will, moreover, make the hearer more vigilant in respect of the contemplation of the things which have been said. And if we were to excuse ourselves through negligence from writing them down this act would bring danger upon him that made such an excuse, and therefore, although we can only advance from the beginning but a very little way with the living word, we will declare a few of the earlier things.

It was a custom with the God-loving brother, the holy man Abbâ Pachomius, to gather together the brethren every evening in a duly appointed place in the monastery that they might hear his doctrine, and once when they were all assembled according to their wont in order to hear Rabbâ, he commanded Theodore, a man who had lived in the monastery for twenty years, to speak to the brethren, and straightway he spake unto them concerning the things which were to be employed as helpers, but made no mention of not stumbling. And some of the aged sages who saw what had taken place did not wish to listen to him, and they said within themselves, “What he is teaching us is for novices, and we [need not] listen unto him,” and they left the congregation of the brethren and departing from that place went to their cells.

And when the brethren had been dismissed from the hearing [of the sermon] Rabbâ sent and called those who had departed and who did not wish to hear Theodore, and when they had come into the presence of the holy man he asked them, “Why did ye leave us and depart to your cells?” And they said, “Because thou hast made a young man our teacher, and although all the old men were standing [there], and other brethren who were much older [than he], thou didst command a young man to speak unto us.” Now when Rabbâ had heard these things he groaned, and said, “Do ye know by what means wickedness first began to take hold in the world?” And they said unto him, “What were they?” And he answered and said unto them, “By pride, and it began when that bright star which used to shine (or rise) in the morning fell [from heaven] (Isaiah 14:12), and was dashed in pieces on the earth. Or, have ye never heard that which is written, ‘The man who is haughty in heart is an abominable thing before the Lord?’ (Proverbs 16:5.) For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, but he that abaseth himself shall be exalted (St. Matthew, 23:12). Therefore deliver ye yourselves from your false superiority, for do ye not know that the mother of the beginning of wickednesses is pride? Ye did not only leave Theodore and depart from him, but ye fled and departed from the Word of God, [and] ye fell away from the Holy Spirit. O ye truly wretched men, who deserve sorrow of every kind, how is it that ye cannot understand that it was Satan who was working in you, and that, because of this, ye made yourselves to be remote from God? Oh, what a great and wonderful thing it is that God humbled Himself, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and put on his body and dwelt in him, and became obedient even unto death for our sakes! And yet we who are by nature low puff ourselves up with pride! He Who is high above all things, and exceeding great, turned from the ordinary course [of His greatness] and in humility fashioned the world, although He was able to destroy everything which existeth by a glance! And yet we who are nothing make ourselves proud, being ignorant that in thus doing we are sinking ourselves into the depths of the earth! Do ye not observe that I stand and incline my ear to the teaching [of Theodore]? Verily I say unto you, that I have been greatly helped by him. For I did not ask him to address you because I thought lightly of him, but because I expected to be helped myself by his words; how very much more, then, is it right that ye should hearken unto his words with a ready mind and absolute humility? Verily I, who am your father in the Lord, am as one who knoweth not his right hand from his left, and therefore I listen unto him with all my soul. Therefore before God I say unto you that, if ye shew great repentance for this folly which ye have committed, and if ye weep and mourn for yourselves because thereof in such wise that ye be edified thereby, that which hath happened shall be forgiven you, and if not, then ye will go to perdition.”








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